Monday, December 3, 2007

Knocking Boots

© 2007 Leighann Lord

I love shoes. I have a closet full of neatly boxed and labeled foot wear categorized by season (wearing opened toed shoes in the Winter is silly), color (life long New Yorker that I am, I believe black goes with everything), and heel height (there's a time for flip flops and a time for pumps). I hope one day to have two walk-in closets; one for clothes, one for shoes. Imelda Marcos and Adrian Monk would be proud.

I also have a small but functional boot collection; everything from construction worker style Timberland's to the patent leather, pointy toed stilettos. Not only are the latter drop dead sexy, but they were also dirt cheap. It doesn't get better than that.

Strutting down the street one day -- cause these are the kinda boots you strut, not walk, in -- a lady said, "Ooh, those are 'Cat Woman' boots." I took it as a compliment, but I couldn't help but wonder which Cat Woman she meant. I hoped for Eartha Kitt. She was the quintessential Cat Woman. Halle Berry was beautiful, of course, but her Cat Woman illustrated why secondary characters shouldn't have their own movie.

But I must confess that I'm a bit biased. I've never forgiven Halle for doing a half-assed job as Storm in "X-Men." I know. Let it go, Leighann. Let it go. Believe me, I've tried. Candles, meditation, scream therapy and still the nerve is raw.

I have a very special pair of boots that I wear so rarely they look brand new: A flat heeled, black leather boot that comes up to my thigh. The top can be folded down for the pirate look; unfolded and worn up to the thigh: pure Dominatrix. These boots taught me a valuable lesson very early in my comedy career: some outfits and accessories are too distracting to wear on stage.

I am a staunch advocate of dressing nicely for a show, but women have an interesting dilemma. Look too sexy and the men in the audience are paying attention to you for reasons that have nothing to do with comedy, and the women with them are none too pleased.

This is not an absolute. There are experienced comics who dress provocatively on stage, well aware of the effect they have on the audience and know how to use it. Back then I was not one of them. The boots looked great, but it was not one of my better shows. I got off stage sad and dejected and in need of relief.

Some comics turn to alcohol, I turn to sugar and so off I went to the candy store next door to the club to buy something sweet. There's nothing a little sugar can't fix. I walked into the candy store and saw just the thing to make it all better: a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. I picked it up and asked the man behind the counter, "How much?" And he said, "Nothing. Baby, in those boots you can have anything you want."

What? I was stunned, not only by what he said, but the sincerity and urgency with which he said it. It make me really look at him. He was an older man (there's a time in your life when all men are older) and he was serious.

I was not so naive as to be unfamiliar with the attentions of strange men. I've received bold glances, cat calls and the occasional proposal of marriage, but this was different. This was wasn’t just lust. He was enthralled. The boots were a siren that called to this man in some way I did not yet understand and was not mature enough to handle. I could indeed have had everything in the store I wanted including him.

I stammered a quick, "Uh... no thank you," and left the candy store sans gum. The Boots were neatly returned to my closet and not worn again for several years. They still aren't something I'd wear everyday, but they do make it into the rotation. I have never worn them on stage again, by choice. I know their power and prefer more subtle ways of engaging an audience. I can't have hordes of people offering to buy me gum now can I?

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